Celebrating Namdeb gems: Building on a shiny legacy

Q&A with Pauline (Thomas) Kahupi
Pauline (Thomas) Kahupi shares a lifetime of positive impact from Namdeb's 'shiny stones'.
Augetto Graig
Pauline is a Corporate and Public Affairs specialist who centres her focus on bridging important new intersects between external brand positioning, internal cultural integrity and alignment, as well as creating a net positive corporate legacy.
She has worked at a senior managerial level within the fields of HR, Public Relations, Branding and Sustainability. In 2019 she was afforded an opportunity by Namdeb to join the De Beers UK Corporate Affairs team for two years on secondment as the Building Forever (sustainability framework) Programme Manager. She returned to Namdeb at the end of 2021 as the company’s Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Impact.
Pauline achieved Chartered Public Relations Practitioner (PRISA) status in 2017 and is currently a full scholarship candidate for the Valar Institute Executive MBA Class of September 2024. She is fuelled by two beliefs that keep her energised: - “life is a journey – not a destination” and “to live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong”.

How did you first hear about Namdeb?
My parents worked for Namdeb’s predecessor – Consolidated Diamond Mines – so having grown up in Oranjemund from the age of three months till grade 12, it was inevitable that I would know about the national icon formed in 1994.

How did you get your first job at Namdeb? When was that?
Namdeb was one of the many companies I applied to as a young graduate from the University of Namibia (UNAM). Destiny brought me back to my diamond roots. Contrary to most individuals assuming that I was a Namdeb bursar, I applied and competed against other candidates in an interview for a Namdeb HR role and was fortunate to have been awarded a permanent contract as an HR Graduate Trainee in 2001 – twenty-three (23) years ago.

What memory stands out from those early years?
The pride I felt being employed by the “Employer of Choice” and the level of exposure afforded to Graduate Trainees across all disciplines in comparison to my peers working at other companies at the time. It was performance-based and Trainees who out-performed the rest quickly moved through the system to be appointed into more substantive role. As a Graduate, I recall bumping into the General Manager one day – and although I froze, he smiled and said “hallo Pauline, I have heard great things about you. . .” I remain inspired and still smile when I recall that moment of more than twenty years ago when I was acknowledged and filled with so much pride.

When did you realize that there was an opportunity to grow and develop yourself at Namdeb from more than someone with a job into someone with a career?
From my days as a Graduate Trainee, it became evident that a job had a title that was linked to a certain PayScale but it is the passion, commitment and one’s personal investment (not just others doing things for you) that makes one relevant and contributes to shaping one’s career.

Please describe the company at the time when you joined Namdeb and how it has changed over the years?
I joined a Namdeb that employed over 5 000 permanent employees and like most mining houses it was male dominated with very few previously disadvantaged people occupying professional and/or senior roles. Safety was something we had to do and being a responsible and sustainable business was aligned to global standards of back then. The Namdeb of today has had to reduce employee numbers for various strategic reasons which include having faced closure – however the Company is still one of Namibia’s largest employers. Bursary schemes and Affirmative Action plans over the years have resulted in a much more diversified workforce. Safety is something we live both at work and home and we embrace psychological safety. Sustainability is one of our core values and it is beyond applying standards because we are genuinely authentic about practically ensuring a better tomorrow for generations to come.

What is your current position at Namdeb and which responsibilities have you taken on over your time at Namdeb?
My role is titled Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Impact. The role oversees programmes and interventions that contribute to ensuring long term positive impact and earning trust in natural diamonds, leveraging the Namdeb Brand and positively impacting stakeholder buy-in and alignment. (Communications/ Brand/PR/Sustainability). Over the years I have been in various other Corporate Affairs roles as well as HR.

What about working for Namdeb makes you proud?
Namdeb has an incredibly rich history and positive legacy and I have been fortunate to be both a recipient of and a contributor to the positive legacy.

How has your career at Namdeb changed you as a person?
The opportunities afforded by Namdeb have and continue to grow me.

How did Namdeb help you with your career development?
Namdeb is an enabler – because Namdeb is an institution of learning and growing and individuals are truly empowered to take charge of their own career development through the avenues provided for by the business. An “open door” policy is not something people hear about – they experience it even when it comes to the office of the CEO, Riaan Burger. It is also an institution where the organisational core values (Safety, Teamwork, Accountability, Innovation, Respect and Sustainability) form the foundation of the lens you apply both internally and externally. I have made use of the Namdeb Self Study assistance scheme, whereby one gets 87.5% back of the money used to study, I have attended various programmes, afforded opportunities to lead projects and have even been seconded outside the country.

Which of your colleagues helped mentor, motivate and inspire you through your career at Namdeb?
There are quite a number of individuals because one’s career takes on different turns and growth paths over the years however, I would like to single out three inspirational women – Melissa Shanjengange, Mee Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi and Ophelia Netta and my wonderful husband, Inamutila Kahupi, who I met during the time he worked for Namdeb – and who continues to be my greatest “cheerleader” and pillar of strength.

What advice would you give to young Namibians looking to start their own careers?
You are the master of your own destiny – the other factors are only enablers however you need to believe in yourself first, take accountability for shaping your career and remember that “Life is a journey – not a destination” and “to live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong”.

When was the first time you saw a diamond?
I can’t recall the exact time, however I do recall seeing the “shiny stones” and thinking about the role they played in my upbringing and the positive impact they have on so many lives across the entire Namibia.